Napolitano urges parents to 'draw the line' against underage drinking

PHOENIX-On the heels of Red Ribbon Week, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and the Arizona Underage Drinking Prevention Committee kicked off a public awareness campaign calling on parents and adults to Draw the Line against underage drinking.

The awareness campaign comes at a time when the federal government is considering lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18.

Hopi Vice Chairman Todd Honyaoma Sr. said he is opposed to the federal proposal to lower the drinking age and will be looking for support to oppose the measure in the coming weeks and months.

Following numerous research studies in Arizona and nationwide about the dangers of underage alcohol use, the Draw the Line campaign's focus is to raise awareness, change attitudes and alter behavior regarding youth alcohol consumption and alcohol availability in Arizona.

Gov. Napolitano said in a news release that countless research studies show that underage alcohol use-even at moderate levels-can cause permanent brain damage, disrupt learning and program children for alcoholism or other addictions.

"There is no such thing as safe drinking for anyone under age 21," she said. "Underage drinking hurts our families and damages Arizona's future."

The Arizona governor said that underage drinking is the number one substance abuse problem facing youth in Arizona. The 2006 Arizona Youth Survey revealed that one in four eighth grade students has experimented with alcohol in the 30 days prior to being surveyed.

The survey further showed that nearly 75 percent of Arizona 12th graders who took part in the survey indicated they had been drunk or high at school, binge drank or tried alcohol at least once at school.

Studies show that the younger a child is when he or she begins to use alcohol, the greater his or her chance is of becoming an alcoholic. Underage drinking also raises the likelihood of other substance abuse.

Gov. Napolitano said the campaign will provide useful tools and resources to assist parents and adults in educating children about the dangers of alcohol consumption before the age of 21. It will also work to reduce the overall incidence of youth who drink.

Gov. Napolitano's Office for Children, Youth and Families, along with 11 community coalitions around the state are coordinating with the UAD Committee on the effort to ensure wide-reaching coverage.

She said the sustained multi-faceted campaign will include numerous grassroots efforts including a traveling interactive exhibit and a comprehensive web site.

To build public awareness and extend the reach of the campaign other elements will include letters to the editor, lunch and learn workplace seminars, town hall meetings, block parties and other events staged throughout Arizona.

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